Our entire country is in a moment of deep introspection, facing uncomfortable and necessary conversations exploring how we can dismantle institutional and systemic racism, and we have some work to do right here in our own backyard in L.A.
Last Tuesday, July 14, 2020 during a public Mar Vista Community Council meeting, on which I serve as an elected At-Large Director, I experienced an obscene incident where the Vice Chair verbally attacked me, referencing my Latina ethnicity and age, and used physical obscenities toward me. This incident was in response to my raised concern about a lack of equity and inclusion and questioning the Chair’s decision to single me out, as the only woman of color, youngest, and one of a few renters on the Board, by denying me a leadership post to a standing committee of the Council. I was both offended and appalled at the Vice Chair’s behavior and the notable silence from the Chair.
It is our responsibility as elected leaders of the community to call out patterns of aggression within this Council and in others across the City. Most importantly, it’s up to our community to hold government leaders accountable and demand that our work is driven toward equity with integrity and civility. We have to collectively commit to fighting injustice and challenging discrimination toward communities of color.
I see this incident as an prime opportunity from which our Council and community can learn and grow together, and I have some ideas on how we can do that.
- Our Council members and other government bodies should be required to complete Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion training annually.
- The Board of Neighborhood Commissioners which oversees our Council must formally denounce prejudicial behavior and outline substantive and actionable corrective measures for members engaged in future uncivil and discriminatory incidents. All councils must also do the same.
- All councils should be required to individually develop racial equity action plans building upon Mayor Eric Garcetti’s thoughtful Executive Order No. 27 on Racial Equity.
- The City of Los Angeles should publicly adopt a zero-tolerance policy for any prejudicial or discriminatory behavior by Council members, which it funds through taxpayer funds.
It’s essential that government bodies provide representation for all stakeholders within our communities, especially those who are disproportionately silenced, as I was during the meeting. This Council, however, does not reflect the diversity of the community within its membership or leadership, despite our district constituting 54% of a minority population, with 64% being renters, and a majority under 45 years old.
All leaders have a responsibility to promote equity and inclusivity, and I commit to always advocating for the disenfranchised within all communities. But importantly, it’s up to all of us to use our voices to stand up for justice. At a moment when life is fragile, let’s do good, respect and help others to make our country a healthier and more inclusive place. Let’s start here at home in Mar Vista.